Psalm 42: A Yearning to Be Fully Satisfied

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Psalm 42

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Neighborhood Trees #7 | Cypress, TX | January 2023

Mick Jagger couldn’t get it: he was never satisfied. The leech, sheol, a dry land, and fire (according to Proverbs 30:15-16) never get enough. Or as Blaise Pascal famously said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every [person] which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.” That is the sentiment of Psalm 42. The image of a deer panting for streams of water is a powerful way to express a yearning for God, and not anything else.

Sometimes, however, I wish it was more true of me. It’s so easy to yearn for things other than God. From food to fun or money to recognition, it’s far too easy to misplace my yearnings. This psalm is, therefore, a challenge and an aspiration. It is a reminder of my truest and most important need, as well as a way for me to focus on a better desire. Rather than a hot fudge Sundae, the acclaim of people, or a lottery win, I need God’s presence. And so do we all.

It should remind us that we are not yet fully in the presence of God. He is with us at all times. Jesus promised as much as he gave the Great Commission (Matthew 28:20). God is with his people, and has promised this again and again. (cf. Joshua 1:9; Isaiah 43:2,5) But we too often wander from his presence. We lose sight of him and his ways. We willfully disobey him. We ignore his blessings. We undervalue his love.

The worst suffering of Jesus was endured on the cross when he cried out in anguish in the face of God’s abandonment. (Matthew 27:46) This psalm is a prayer of yearning for the opposite. One day that prayer will be fully and perfectly answered. In those times of anxiety, fear, and loneliness, we can pray this psalm with the confidence that God is with us. We can draw near as be gather with other believers in the name of Jesus. We can celebrate the real presence of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper. We can call on God in prayer, confident that he hears us and answers our prayers. And we can bend our yearnings toward the fullness of God’s presence in every moment of every day.

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